Falling For You
by Julie Ortolon, contemporary (2002)
St Martin's Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-97872-3

If Julie Ortolon has taken the time to explore a little out of the well-worn path she is retreading in Falling For You, trim down the Big Misunderstanding/Secret/Miscommunication thing, and give the hero at least one non-stock-jerky archetype trait, Falling For You would've been the rare romance novel I've read recently where I may just cheer the heroine on.

Heroine Rory St Claire is a bit on the dim-bulbed side, but she has heart, and I always like a woman who dares to seize a chance at realizing a dream. So why the heck does the package has to come with boring Oliver Chancellor?

Rory wants to buy some house she believes she has to right to own it, even if she has no means of financing it. She wants to open a B&B in that place, even if she has no valid business plan. But that's a romance heroine for you. Who needs common sense when you can ditz the hero into doing it all for you? Indeed, banker dude Oliver Chancellor soon becomes Rory's sugar daddy in all but name only. He's the usual stuffy, boring type as opposed to Rory's "free-spirit" (read: loose brain cells) type.

Still, I like Rory. She has the enthusiasm, the drive, and the motivation. You go, girl. At least she has ambitions, you know, a far cry from the usual let-me-weep-as-I-hide-in-the-library pathetic excuses for women populating too many romance novels.

And the story is pretty fun, until the author lets the story get entangled in a dreary mire of Rory's self-pity and inferiority complex, Oliver's mulish insistence on marrying some Ms Wrong and acting all jerk and asshole about it, and of course, some miscommunication issues that bring forth a Big Revelation that only pains me.

So on one hand, Rory and some prominent secondary characters can shine, but on the other hand, Oliver and some plot elements are so predictable and familiar. Still, let me just mull over this one a bit. Hmm, okay, I still find the strengths of this book outweigh the flaws by a slight margin, so hey, here's a thumb-and-a-half up to Falling For You. It's the best of the three books this author has written so far in terms of character and readability, and here's hoping the hero and plot are a bit different from the same old, same bore the next time around.

Rating: 78

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